CAMARILLO, CA -- Herbert Hyman, who founded the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the early 1960s and saw the premium coffee chain grow to hundreds of stores around the world, died on April 28 at his home here. He was 82.
The family's obituary described Hyman as a man who approached everything in life with zeal and an extraordinary sense of humor, and one who could rarely pass up an opportunity to play a practical joke. "He once released live chickens inside UCLA's Powell Library, and another time enlisted friends to help deposit his professor's VW Bug at the top of the library's grand steps," according to the obituary.
Pranks aside, Hyman was a determined entrepreneur who left the University of California (Los Angeles) before graduating because he had started a successful on-campus vending machine operation. He also ran an office coffee service business.
He and his wife, Mona, founded Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in 1963 after making several trips to her native Sweden. Herb noticed a marked difference between the quality of coffee in Sweden and in the U.S., and decided to try his own hand at importing, roasting and selling gourmet coffee. The Hymans opened their first store in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, with Herb himself building the oak woodwork. The store sold bags of gourmet beans by the pound that were roasted daily on premise.
A passionate coffee expert, Hyman offered lessons in how to properly brew and even invented special drip makers and thermoses. Clients included such celebrities as Johnny Carson, Dinah Shore and Lee Marvin, according to his daughter Anne-Marie Hyman, a one-time chief executive of the company.
After growing into a chain, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf pioneered ice-blended coffee drinks by using a hot chocolate powder and a special method for brewing a cold coffee extract. By the 1990s, cold coffee drinks and espresso had replaced regular drip coffee in popularity at the stores.
Hyman sold the chain in 1998. Today, it has more than 900 stores in 15 states and 29 countries.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Hyman is survived by children Michael, Jeffrey, Susan and Sheri; siblings Martin and Edith; and six grandchildren.